Dr Kim thinks this brain swelling reflects a surge in skills associated with parenthood – such as nurturing and understanding your baby’s needs – and the inevitably steep learning curve that new mums and dads have to overcome. . In particular, because men don’t experience the hormonal surges that come with pregnancy and childbirth, “learning to bond emotionally with their own babies can be especially important in becoming a father,” Dr. Kim suggested. “Anatomical Changes in the Brain May Support Fathers’ Gradual Learning Experience Over Several Months.”
But while new mothers and fathers show activation in brain regions related to empathy and understanding their child’s emotional state and behavioral intentions, a 2012 study by neuroscientists from the Bar-Ilan University in Israel has suggested that the parts of the brain that light up the most are surprisingly different for each parent. For the mothers, the regions closest to the heart of the brain – which allow them to nurture, nurture and detect risk – were the most active. But for dads, the parts that shone brightest were located on the outer surface of the brain, where higher, more conscious cognitive functions are found, such as thinking, goal orientation, planning and problem solving. problems.
Shir Atzil, a psychologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and lead author of the study, said – along with Dr Kim – that fathers’ brains seem to have adapted in similar but different ways to ensure that they can bond and care for their babies, though they haven’t delivered them. This means that mothers and fathers are prepared to “demonstrate similar levels of motivation and attunement with the infant,” Dr. Atzil said.
Beyond that, the different areas of brain activation may reflect different but equally strong role difference and attachments between mothers and fathers. It’s a cliché that kids run to mum for a hug when they’re hurt, while dad is the “fun” parent. But evidence suggests that mothers and fathers get different neurochemical “rewards” after certain parenting behaviors, prompting these differences in stereotypes.
Ruth Feldman, an Israel-based social neuroscientist, published a study of 112 mothers and fathers in 2010 that found that spikes in oxytocin (and by association, dopamine) occurred in women as they raised their children. In contrast, the peak for men occurred when they participated in fighting games. Because young children’s brains seem to mimic the same levels of oxytocin as their parents’ – meaning they’ll get a similar dose of feel-good oxytocin when playing with dad and when being fed by mom – they’ll be more likely to engage with it. behavior again and again specifically with that parent, which is essential to its development. Fight games not only cement the bond between father and child, but also play a crucial role in the social development of the child.
There are, of course, many unanswered questions in the relatively new field of fatherhood biology. After 10 years of study, we now need to replicate our results on larger and more diverse groups. But if I get the chance, I tell new fathers that evolution has prepared them to be parents just as it has prepared women. Biology has your back.